Diagnostic hearing testing of infants aged 0-36 months in 3 South African provinces - Comparison of audiology records to HPCSA guidelines

Selvarani Moodley, Claudine Störbeck
International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology 2016, 91: 152-158

INTRODUCTION: Within the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) pathway, which includes the processes of screening, diagnosis and intervention for paediatric hearing loss, paediatric diagnostic audiology involves a battery of specific tests and procedures. International studies have highlighted a golden standard for diagnosis of paediatric hearing loss as based on the Joint Committee of Infant Hearing (2007) diagnostic guidelines, closely resembling the HPCSA diagnostic guidelines. There are limited South African studies on the processes and protocols followed in diagnostic paediatric audiology.

OBJECTIVES: This study aims to provide a comparison for how the tests used for diagnosis of paediatric hearing loss in South Africa (within both the public and private healthcare sectors) compare to the HPCSA recommended diagnostic guidelines.

METHODS: A retrospective record review of paediatric clients with hearing loss (recruited through nonprobability convenience sampling) was conducted. This study is part of a longitudinal study of 711 deaf or hard of hearing children referred to the HI HOPES early intervention programme from September 2006 to December 2011. Diagnostic data from audiology reports of 117 children between 0 and 36 months were coded and analysed.

RESULTS: Large variation was found in the tests included in the diagnostic audiology reports. For 22 children (19%) a comprehensive test battery was used. Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) recommended guidelines for diagnostic testing were not followed in any of the records analysed. Components of the HPCSA recommended test battery most frequently omitted was bone conduction testing. For both electrophysiology and behavioural testing, there was limited frequency specificity information. This exclusion of information is evidence of deficiencies in data recording and management, as well as having an effect on accuracy of classification of degree and type of hearing loss.

CONCLUSION: There are gaps in age-appropriate assessment protocols, which will have an effect on accurate differential diagnosis of paediatric hearing loss. Reasons for not including all testing components of the HPCSA recommended guidelines, as well as the possibility of developing guidelines more relevant to a developing world context, should be explored. There might be a need for. The impact of South African specific factors that have an effect on provision of accurate paediatric diagnostic audiology services should be determined.

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